AFC ban on Iranian teams continuation of anti-Iranian scenario: expert

TEHRAN, Jan. 19 (MNA) – A veteran sports journalist believes that the AFC’s initial decision to ban Iranian teams from hosting 2020 ACL in Iran is a continuation of a scenario that aims to put pressure on Iranian authorities through sports.

The report on the ban of Iranian teams for hosting their rivals in the 2020 AFC Champions League has provoked a furious but united response against what has become known as the most political decision of the AFC.

Initial reports on the ban started interestingly with a Saudi Arabian TV host who announced the news citing informed sources. A day later, the Iranian Football Federation confirmed that it has received a letter from the AFC which says Iranian teams should host their rivals in 2020 ACL in a neutral venue due to security concerns.

Using lobbies, Saudi Arabia managed to persuade AFC officials to hold football matches of its teams with Iranian ones in a neutral venue. The decision came as Tehran and Riyadh had cut political ties. Iranian sports officials were criticized at the time and even now for giving in to that AFC’s decision which may have also affected their recently-announced ban.

Although the decision is not final yet as the AFC’s Executive Committee has not endorsed it, millions of Iranian football fans along with officials have expressed their anger at the initial decision.

Tens of thousands of fans took to Twitter and Instagram to voice their strong protest for banning a country which has a major share in ACL’s rate of attendance at stadiums.

Meanwhile, the four Iranian participating teams in the 2020 ACL sent a letter to Asia’s governing football body announcing that they will host their rivals only in Iran not anywhere else.

To shed more light on the issue we reached out to the editor-in-chief of Mehr News Agency’s sports desk, Reza Khosravi.

“The decision made by the AFC’s Competition’s Committee regarding Iranian representatives in the AFC Champions League is the continuation of a scenario which has started months for Iran’s sports aimed at put pressure on the country’s authorities through sports,” he told me.

 “The scenario started with the interference of the International Judo Federation in the case of Saeid Mollaei’s immigration and then continued with chess and now it’s time for football. Due to the huge presence of fans, sports have special importance across the world and is the best tool to implement measures that could be positive or negative in nature.

“This time, the AFC officials are trying to challenge Iran’s sports and politics through an unprofessional and anti-football act under the influence and pressure of some countries and political figures; and what can be a better means than forcing Iranian teams to host their rivals in a neutral venue,” he highlighted.

“Iran’s sports officials have made the best decision and perhaps if they had stood against AFC’s earlier decision of holding Iran-Saudi matches in neutral venues, the confederation would not have thought of repeating the scenario and putting pressure on Iran’s football.

Iran’s Persepolis and Sepahan have already secured their place in the group stage of the 2020 ACL while Esteghlal and Shahr Khodro have to play in the Preliminary Stage to advance to the group competitions.

Reporting by Mohammad Ali Haqshenas

News Code 154708

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